Barkada blues
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - August 16, 2020 - 12:00am

By this time, most everybody who have heard about it will have already formed their own opinion. So the goal this weekend is not to aim to sway opinion (was it ever?) but to poke fun at those who hold opposite opinions (as it has always been.)

Today, the discussion centers around the use by four white dudes of the name “Barkada” for a Washington DC bar. Nope, there was nothing Filipino in the decor, or the menu, or the ethnicity of the Caucasian owners - they just thought barkada was a catchy name that they could brand for their bar.

Which, as far as my Pinoy-mixed light cappuccino ass is concerned, is perfectly fine. Because that is the same operative principle (based on a totally unscientific survey) for exactly 63.8% of businesses scattered all over the city, all of which sport names that have paid totally no regard to the origin of such name. Egregious examples are “Alamak BBQ Pancit”, “C’est La Vie Event Management” or “Bushido Consulting” - look them up!

Note the owners didn’t even try to refer to Philippine ethnicity in their name, like “Filipino cookies” or “Pinoy brew”. So we don’t even need to compare it to Spanish bread, Danish cookies, or German sausage.

Instead, the squad appropriated “Barkada” which is just a commonly used word that people toss off nonchalantly and dispose of without much thought in the kalyes (calles) of Pilipinas. Much like businesses sport names like “Enfant Philippines” or “Monde Nissin”, which take French words without objection from France. Or “Asian Hospitals” and “Asian Development Bank”, without protest from Asia. (Oh, that’s right, it’s not a country). What about “Tokyo, Tokyo”, which has flourished in the Philippines without a peep from Tokyo, Japan?

So, there was much ado about nothing from this Fil-am woman named Jessica Millete (what kind of a Pinoy name is “Millete” anyway?) who objected to the four barkadas affixing “Barkada” to their wine bar, and called them out for cultural appropriation. She started posting about the bar and drawing attention to it, and the online and media furor became so heated, it was reported that the dudes eventually decided to change the bar’s name. So sad.

Dudes, please accept my apologies for the undue attention that was given to the non-issue. I think that, even if my fabulous self isn’t part of your barkada, you had a perfect right to affix it on your premises. I totally regret that a person claiming to be of Philippine heritage would take offense, when so many actual live Filipinos breathing Philippine air and actually sweltering in this tropical heat don’t really care what name you use.

Perhaps, it is Jisika who has culturally appropriated the Philippines, based on her blood, but without actually imbibing what it is to be actually Filipino. Jisika should suffer the daily indignities we suffer, the crushing callousness of the government, the savage rapacity with which our coffers are raided, before she can then claim to be Filipino.

For, to be Filipino now, it must mean massive amounts of patience while watching incompetent government officials try to wrestle with a pandemic that will not yield to prayers or lies. It means slowly and steadily, even if unwillingly, becoming callous after being subjected to daily stories of fellow Filipinos being neglected, ignored, abused, and yes, murdered. To be Filipino, means thinking daily about whether it is still worth it to be Filipino.

My dear Jisika, after experiencing all that, we can then talk about what is a Filipino, and whether the fight should be with four barkadas trying to kickstart a small business, or with professional thieves and murderers that care nothing about the future of this country.

Then maybe, once we have had that conversation, we can even be barkada. (Love your Instagram posts, by the way.)

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